Why you have (probably) already bought your last car

: 10th October 2018
Driverless taxis – the transport of the future?

A growing number of tech analysts are predicting that in less than 20 years we’ll all have stopped owning cars, and, what’s more, the internal combustion engine will have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Yes, it’s a big claim and you are right to be sceptical, but the argument that a unique convergence of new technology is poised to revolutionise personal transportation is more persuasive than you might think.

The central idea is pretty simple: Self-driving electric vehicles organised into an Uber-style network will be able to offer such cheap transport that you’ll very quickly – we’re talking perhaps a decade – decide you don’t need a car any more.

And if you’re thinking this timescale is wildly optimistic, just recall how rapidly cars replaced horses.

Take a look at this picture of 5th Avenue in New York in 1900. Can you spot the car?

5th Avenue New York in 1900

Now look at this picture from 1913. Yes, this time where’s the horse?


In 1908 the first Model T Ford rolled off the production line; by 1930 the equestrian age was, to all intents and purposes, over – and all thanks to the disruptive power of an earlier tech innovation – the internal combustion engine.

So how will this latest transportation revolution unfold?

The driverless Uber model

First off, consider how Uber and other networked taxi companies have already changed the way we move around. In most major cities an Uber driver – or one of its rivals – is usually just a couple of minutes away, and charges less than established taxis, let’s say £10.

The company’s exponential growth is evidence of how powerful the Uber business model is.

Now take out the driver. You’ve probably cut costs by at least 50%.

Uber has been experimenting with driverless cars

So if we’re trying to work out when this revolution will begin in earnest the key date will be when self-driving vehicle technology is available and – crucially – has regulatory backing.

That could well be sooner than you think. The UK has said it hopes to authorise the first fully autonomous cars as early as 2021.

And, say enthusiasts for autonomy, it will only take one city to prove the technology is safe and useful and the rest of the world will very quickly rush to catch up.

So self-driving cars have cut our £10 journey to £5.

The switch to electric

Now imagine the current mostly fossil fuel-powered taxi fleet is replaced with electric cars.

At the moment electric vehicles are more expensive than similar models with internal combustion engines, but offer significantly lower lifetime costs.

They are more reliable, for a start. The typical electric car has around 20 moving parts compared to the 2,000 or so in an internal combustion engine.

As a result electric vehicles also tend to last much longer. Most electric car manufacturers expect their vehicles to keep on going for at least 500,000 miles.

These factors aren’t that important for most consumers – after all, the average driver in England does less than 10,000 miles a year and our cars are parked 95% of the time. However, they are huge issues if you’re using a vehicle pretty much continuously, as would be the case with a self-driving taxi.

The end of the road for the internal combustion engine?

Add in the low cost of recharging batteries compared to refuelling and you’ve got another dramatic reduction in costs.

And it’s worth noting that the cost of electric vehicles is likely to continue to fall, and rapidly. As they become mainstream, returns to scale will drive down costs. That’s the logic behind Tesla’s $5bn (£3.8bn) battery plant, the so-called “Gigafactory”.

How does this affect our £10 journey?

It brings another dramatic reduction. Fully autonomous electric taxi networks could offer rides at as little as 10% of current rates.

At least that’s what tech prophet Tony Seba reckons. He and his team at the think-tank RethinkX have done more than anyone else to think through how this revolution might rip through the personal transportation market.

‘Transport as a service’

We’ve now cut our £10 fare to just £1.

Mr Seba calls the idea of a robo-taxi network “transport as a service”, and estimates it could save the average American as much as $6,000 (£4,560) a year. That’s the equivalent of a 10% pay rise.

And don’t forget, when the revolution comes you won’t be behind the wheel so now you’ll be working or relaxing as you travel – another big benefit.

You still think that car parked outside your flat is worth having?

What’s more, once this new model of getting around takes hold the benefits are likely to be reinforcing. The more vehicles in the network, the better the service offered to consumers; the more miles self-driving cars do, the more efficient and safer they’ll get; the more electric vehicles manufactured, the cheaper each one will be.

Don’t worry about running out of charge

Don’t worry that rural areas will be left out. A vehicle could be parked in every village waiting for your order to come.

And range anxiety – the fear that you might run out of electricity – won’t be a problem either. Should the battery run low the network will send a fully charged car to meet you so you can continue your journey.

You’ve probably seen headlines about accidents involving self-driving cars but the truth is they will be far safer than ones driven by you and me – they won’t get regulatory approval if they are not. That means tens of thousands of lives – perhaps hundreds of thousands – will be saved as accident rates plummet.

That will generate yet another cost saving for our fleets of robo-taxis. The price of insurance will tumble, while at the same time those of us who insist on continuing to drive our own vehicles will face higher charges.

Human drivers banned

According to the tech visionaries it won’t be long before the whole market tilts irreversibly away from car ownership and the trusty old internal combustion engine.

RethinkX, for example, reckons that within 10 years of self-driving cars getting regulatory approval 95% of passenger miles will be in these electric robo-taxis.

Will cars parked outside houses soon be a thing of the past?

The logical next step will be for human beings to be banned from driving cars at all because they pose such a risk to other road users.

Take a moment to think about the wide-reaching effects this revolution will have, aside from just changing how we get around. There will be downsides: millions of car industry workers and taxi drivers will be looking for new jobs, for a start.

But think of the hundreds of billions of dollars consumers will save, and which can now be spent elsewhere in the economy.

Meanwhile, the numbers of cars will plummet. RethinkX estimates that the number of vehicles on US roads will fall from nearly 250 million to just 45 million over a 10-year period. That will free up huge amounts of space in our towns and cities.

And, please take note: I haven’t mentioned the enormous environmental benefits of converting the world’s cars to electricity.

That’s because the logic of this upheaval isn’t driven by new rules on pollution or worries about global warming but by the most powerful incentive in any economy – cold hard cash.

That said, there’s no question that a wholesale switch away from fossil fuels will slow climate change and massively reduce air pollution.

In short, let the revolution begin!

But seriously, I’ve deliberately put these arguments forcefully to prompt debate and we want to hear what you think.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45786690

You can tweet Justin at @BBCJustinR


Future cars to be made from revolutionary new material

University of Surrey Press Release 1st October 2018 A new material that is as stiff as metal but flexible enough to withstand strong vibrations could transform the car manufacturing industry, say experts from the University of Surrey.
In a paper published in Scientific Reports by Nature, scientists from Surrey joined forces with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the University of California to develop a material that has high stiffness and damping. The team achieved this near impossible combination in a material by using 3D woven technical textile composite sheets, with selected unbonded fibres – allowing the inside of the material to move and absorb vibrations, while the surrounding material remains rigid. Researchers believe their new material could usher in a new wave of trains, cars, and aircrafts, allowing customers to experience little to no vibration during their travels. Dr Stefan Szyniszewski, lead author of the study and Assistant Professor of Materials and Structures at the University of Surrey, said: “The idea of a composite the resolves the paradox of stiffness and damping was thought to be impossible – yet here we are. This is an exciting development that could send shock waves through the car, train and aerospace manufacturing industries. This is a material that could make the vehicles of the near future more comfortable than ever before.” Fig. 1: (a) 3D woven (3DW) lattice material is composed of Z- (green), warp (red) and fill (blue) wires; (b) Yellow color indicates the brazing locations (at the top and bottom). (c) Cross-section of 3D woven lattice with the stiff skeleton (the brazed portion on the top and bottom) and free lattice members in the core of the structure, (d) SEM image of the brazed top face, which confirmed metallurgical bonding of the metallic lattices. Source: https://www.surrey.ac.uk/news/future-cars-be-made-revolutionary-new-material TheJunction

IoT and patient-generated data are unlocking health care value

Max Burkhalter

The Internet of Things (IoT) driven health care space focuses on wearables, telehealth, and servicing patient with chronic conditions as well as fitness, nutrition, and weight management concerns.

IoT-and-patientgenerated-data-are-unlocking-health-care-value_728_40178584_0_14142561_500According to a 2016 report from Grand View Research, Inc, the global connected health and wellness devices market was valued at $123.2 billion in 2015 but is expected to reach $612 billion by 2024. An increased reliance on tele-health as well as a rising number of individuals diagnosed with chronic illness is creating demand for disease management and continuous patient monitoring tools. IoT connected health devices with access to electronic patient health records can provide comprehensive health information and assist in creating personalized treatments.

IoT Driven Data Sharing
According to Deloitte, health care providers struggle with the fact that interactions with their most vulnerable patients are often sporadic, providing them with low insight into their patients’ daily decisions and activities. Compliance with treatment plans can be compromised and important information missed, leaving the medical provider blind to important health information and frustrated with bad patient outcomes.

If the flow of information and feedback between patients, providers, and caregivers is enabled with IoT connected devices, everyone is able to get on the same page for patient care. Decisions are now made with all pertinent information in hand and patient outcomes improve exponentially. Fortunately, new technology can make that possible, with IoT wearable medical devices that track internal patient data around the clock and make recording external data easy.

The IoT can help unlock patient data.

Patient-Generated Data
The key is patient-generated data (PGD), which is commonly defined within the industry as “health-related data created, recorded, gathered, or inferred by or from patients or their designees to help address a health concern.” Patient reported outcomes, medical-device data, and wearables data can all be part of individualized PGD, and supplemented by more generalized consumer-generated data in a health care setting.

Mass adoption of IoT devices and wearable medical devices, including sensors and mobile communication devices, is an industry growth driver as consumer preferences towards a more health-conscious lifestyle. The advantages of continuous monitoring for many chronic conditions encourages patient compliance and allows daily logging to become more reliable, delivering more accurate PGD for better outcomes.

The Role of IoT in Health Care Value
The latest versions of digital PGD is being increasingly generated by IoT technologies. Two key areas benefit from IoT-connected data collection medical devices, including:

Short-Term Care Planning
A short-term care period can be utilized to generate massive amounts of event related data and create a customized care plan that encourages patient compliance and provides support in the way of feedback, reminders, and continual monitoring.

Long-Term Chronic Disease Management and Home Care
Known health issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes can be monitored narrowly with continuous data streams tracking any potentially concerning deviations from normal parameters and providing alerts both to patient and caregiver or doctor if required.

The use of IoT connected devices to record and share PGD presents substantial opportunities for health outcome improvements, patient engagement, and cost savings. Deploying wearable medical devices allows doctors to partner with caregivers to deliver treatment tailored to individual patients, creating a patient-centered environment that promotes compliance and contentment.

Complex patient monitoring devices can be interfaced to a single network connection and managed across the internet. Perle Serial Console Servers provide administrators with access from anywhere, allowing remote management to reduce cost while maintaining network security and patient privacy.


Scientists create battery that refuels electric cars in seconds

Liquid Battery

A team at the University of Glasgow has created a prototype system that could revolutionise travel.

The technology uses a metal oxide – described by researchers as an “exotic rust” – that can be charged with electricity when added to water.

Drivers would use filling stations to refuel their electric cars, driving away instantly once a battery is full.

Prof Lee Cronin, who is part of the research team, said the liquid battery could hold the key to making electric cars a viable option to fossil-fuelled vehicles.

‘Cultural inertia’

Prof Cronin told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “This will overcome a big kind of cultural inertia – you can get instant refuel in the same way, with no change to your behaviour now.

“Because it’s a liquid it would just work as normal using the same infrastructure.

“It will certainly be a game changer if we can make sure that the prototype scales as we expect.”


Drivers would remove the spent “rust” liquid using a withdrawal nozzle at the pump.

They would then use a second nozzle to refill the battery with fresh liquid from the pump.

The Glasgow team said the liquid would provide the same range of miles as conventional fossil fuel.

And Prof Cronin said his liquid battery did not age in the same way as current electric systems.

‘Unstoppable barrier’

He also said their capacity – the amount of energy they can carry – was higher.

The team said the process of making the liquid was not too difficult but scaling up production was the next challenge.

The technology could also be used to keep power domestic energy supplies.

A small prototype is being upscaled at present – and everything seems to be going well, according to researchers.

Prof Cronin said: “If you are going to shift to electric cars, recharge time seems to be an almost unstoppable barrier because you are going to have to plan – even with a super-charger – a half-hour to 45-minute wait.

“And then there’s the anxiety of whether you have got enough charging stations.

“I can see a situation where you would have petrol and liquid battery co-existing for a while.”

The research is funded by the University of Glasgow, the European Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Source: BBC News


Trends to Track for Next Year, According to SiLabs

If you want to know the latest trends in our industry, a good place to start is with one of the industry leaders, in this case Silicon Labs. While nobody gets it right all the time, it behooves the industry leaders to back the technologies that are going to have an impact, both in the Ultra-low-power computing, connectivity, aka IoT, and machine learning are three of the areas that will dominate the tech news over the next year or two, along with security. That’s the response I got from Daniel Cooley, the newly appointed Chief Strategy Officer for Silicon Labs. Hear what else Daniel had to say in our brief discussion.

Embedded Computing


An efficient deep-learning tool for detecting eye disease

Model scans images to detect urgent signs of conditions leading to blindness.

A new artificial-intelligence tool deploys a highly efficient form of deep learning to diagnose eye disease from medical images.

Convolutional neural networks are deep-learning algorithms adept at processing images, but researchers typically need to train them on more than a million medical images before they can test how well the algorithms work. Kang Zhang at the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla and his colleagues created a kind of convolutional neural network capable of learning with many fewer images.

The team trained the model on 108,000 images of retinas. All had been classified by experts as either healthy or showing signs of a leading cause of blindness: macular degeneration or diabetic macular edema, a build-up of fluid in the retina. The algorithm identified critical cases of these conditions as accurately as six experts in ophthalmology.

The model also identified pediatric pneumonia from chest X-rays, suggesting that the technique could be broadly applied across medicine.

Source: Nature.com []


AI drones: today’s security guards


In today’s disruptive economy of unmanned aircraft systems, we are constantly on the lookout for inspiring stories and innovative applications. Last week we spoke to Arnd Schöter, co-founder of Nightingale Security, a Mountain View Silicon Valley based service provider that uses autonomous drones to enhance or replace security guards for patrolling, surveillance, and response. Together with GMP Defence they won the Drone Hero Europe 2018 awards with their fully autonomous ‘Blackbird’.

Drone Machine Learning

“Our fully-autonomous system flies patrols day and night (in rain and snow), responds to alarms, transmits live video, lands, recharges, communicates, collaborates and reports maintenance needs—all by itself” explains Arnd. “Nightingale develops software that notices problems before you do. The system learns your facility’s normal attributes, which enables it to detect abnormal deviations and bring them to your attention. Based on all data collected by our system (telemetry, diagnostics, video, weather data, 3Dmapping data and more) our system is able to learn and improve.”

Autonomous drones in a participation economy

Nightingale’s goals in the long run are to become the #1 RaaS (Robot as a Service) provider in the security sector and eventually expand to other verticals, which opens up an endless list of possibilities. “In the long term we envision building a Robotic Applications Platform (RAP), allowing developers to build software for Nightingale’s already on-site, autonomous drones”, says Arnd. “For example, we are flying security at a site of solar fields and our solution works perfect in terms of security. However, the local company could identify an additional use case for the drone, for example putting it to use for detecting abnormalities in their solar fields on sub-cell level. The companies developers could then develop this feature and integrate it into our solution, potentially making it available for other parties to use and improve. A participation model if you will.”


Arnd: Arnd Schöter, based in Brussels, co-founded several consulting companies in Germany, Spain and Belgium, developing digital strategies for German blue chip companies. He has more than 10 years of experience in running global projects in the B2C, B2B area in the logistics, automobile and FMCG industries. He received his MBA from Sheffield Hallam University in England. Being able to live and work abroad for almost 20 years he acquired deep cultural understanding, speaks 5 languages and has built up an extended European business network.

Nightingale’s Blackbird:
‘Blackbird’ is the only UA system available on the market with fully autonomous takeoff, operation, landing and recharching. Together with its own base station and integrated weather system it is capable to perform patrol, inspection, escort and alarm functions, as well as to work even during difficult weather conditions. It can also monitor, recognize and follow objects, as well as avoid obstacles on its way using set of cameras and sensors.

Curious to see where Nigthingale’s headed in the next couple of years? Follow them here.

Source: Amsterdam Drone Week’s Blog []